UBC Occupational Therapy students adopt a person-centered approach to mental health recovery
Personal recovery is an overarching goal when it comes to mental health services in Canada. But until now, little research has looked at what recovery means to those living with mental illness.
Over the past year, UBC occupational therapy students – Marieka Gerding and Sophia Bobovski – set out to gain a better understanding of the personal recovery needs of urban-dwelling adults living with serious mental illness in metro Vancouver.
Here, they share their discoveries and talk about why a patient-centered approach is critical for meaningful mental health intervention and recovery.
Why did you decide to take on this particular research topic?
Sophia: Working with individuals with mental health conditions has always been a passion of mine and before coming to UBC as an occupational therapy student, I spent a number of years working in the mental health field.
Marieka: I actually hadn’t had any previous experience working in mental health so this was a great opportunity for me to dive in and learn more about the important role that occupational therapists can play in supporting individuals with mental health issues.
What was the specific focus of your study?
We set out to learn more about the recovery needs of adults with serious mental illness living in different neighbourhoods in metro Vancouver.
This involved surveying over 200 participants (over the age of 19) who access community-based, outpatient mental health services in the metropolitan region. Participants completed five questionnaires about personal recovery, and three questionnaires about hope, mental health status, and quality of life. We then inputted their responses into statistical analysis software to help examine trends across the questionnaire topics.
It was a lot of hard work and long nights, but it was well worth the effort because we had the opportunity to hear directly from individuals with mental health issues – to find out what they specifically need as they work towards recovery, instead of relying on an overall idea of what, perhaps, we presume recovery to be.
What were your findings?
One of our key findings was that many people living with mental illness are not engaging in structured activity – whether through school, caregiving or work. In fact, over 80 per cent of participants in our study noted that they were unemployed, yet the majority said that they have a desire to have a job.
We also found that those who identified as being able to cope with their symptoms from day to day had an overall higher recovery score – going forward, this is something for occupational therapists to keep in mind. Enabling clients to develop skills to cope with their symptoms is an important part of the recovery journey.
Going forward, this data will give us more insight into what recovery means for people living with serious mental illness, and ultimately enable more effective planning and evaluation of community-based mental health rehabilitation services.
Our work will also be used as part of a larger research study being led by one of our supervisors, Dr. Skye Barbic, an assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy.
For us, this research made us realize that there is so much space and capacity for occupational therapists to make an impact on the community and improve care for people living with mental health issues.
Project Supervisors: Dr. Skye Barbic and Dr. Catherine Backman
More highlights from the 2016 Capstone Conference
Powered scooters have become a popular choice for many Canadians faced with mobility issues.
But without adequate training, users can put themselves — and others — at risk of serious injury. Recent research has found as few as 25 per cent of scooter users receive formal training.
In an effort to determine the training needs of scooter users, UBC occupational therapy students — Julie Deveau and Catharine Eckersley — recently spoke to a number of users to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges they face.
In 2009, in an effort to encourage conversations around sexual rehabilitation, a group of UBC occupational therapy students created a sexual device manual designed for people with disabilities in mind.
Today, seven years after PleasureAble was first published, a new team of occupational therapy students — Marina Khenson and Chelsey Tyler — are looking at how the resource could be further improved to support those living with spinal cord injuries.
Canadian adults who have vision impairments face higher rates of unemployment and are at a greater risk of social isolation and clinical depression.
To gain a better understanding of how stigma influences daily activities and opportunities for people with visual impairments, UBC occupational therapy students — Andrea Smith and Taku Kawai — recently spoke with a number of legally blind individuals.